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History of video game consoles (third generation)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


In the history of video games, the 8-bit era was the third generation of video game consoles, but the first after the video game crash of 1983 and considered by some to be the first "modern" era of console gaming. It began in 1983 with the release of the Famicom in Japan and lasted until 1987. Although the previous generation of consoles had also used 8-bit processors, it was in this time that home game systems were first labeled by their "bits". This came into fashion as 16-bit systems like the Mega Drive/Genesis were marketed to differentiate between the generations of consoles. This generation in gaming was primarily dominated by the Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom.


During the era, the Famicom (short for family computer) became very popular in Japan. The Famicom's American counterpart, the Nintendo Entertainment System, highly dominated the gaming market in North America, thanks in part to its restrictive licensing agreements with developers. Though the NES dominated the market, the Sega Master System (which was popular in Brazil and Europe), and the Atari 7800, were also major players during this era. The Sharp X68000 began its niche run in Japan with its first iteration in 1987.

Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros.

The latter part of the third generation (argued by some as part of the 4th generation) introduced the Game Boy, which single-handedly gelled and proceeded to dominate the previously scattered handheld market for 15 years. While the Game Boy product line has been incrementally updated every few years, until the Game Boy Micro and Nintendo DS, and partially the Game Boy Color, all Game Boy products were backwards compatible with the original released in 1989.

The post-crash 8-bit era saw the first console role-playing video games, and was the birth of the side-scroller. Editing and censorship of video games was often used in localizing Japanese games to North America. It is the era when many famous video game series, and the characters starring in them, originated. Some notable examples include Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, Metroid, Mega Man, Metal Gear, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, Sonic and Bomberman.

This generation is often mislabeled as the "First Generation" as it is the start of video gaming as it is today (although the grouping of generations is arbitrary).

The first Sega vs Nintendo console war

In the later 8-bit era, the NES came out on top in North America and Japan (where it was known as Nintendo Famicom), partially due to its earlier release, but mostly because of Nintendo's strict licensing rules that forbid developers from releasing their games on other systems if their games were released on the NES. This put a damper on third party support for the Master System and the rest of Nintendo's competition. However, the Master System was far more popular in Europe and Brazil, which were markets first covered by Sega. Many more games were released in Europe and Brazil than in North America, and the Master System had a very long shelf-life in Brazil, finally being discontinued in the late 1990's.


Worldwide sales standings

Third generation (late 8-bit era) systems







Video game franchises established during the 8-bit era

¹ The Nintendo Wars franchise was debuted in Japan during the 8-bit era, but Nintendo did not release a Nintendo Wars game in North America until the sixth generation era, where it was marketed as Advance Wars. Interestingly, Advance Wars was not released in Japan until the Gameboy Wars Advance 1+2 compilation, due to the September 11th attacks.


  1. ^ Classic Systems—Nintendo Entertainment System (html). Nintendo. Retrieved on February 11, 2006.


See also

  • Home computer
  • Chiptune
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